Can dogs eat sardines?

Health and Wellbeing

Sardines make a super healthy snack packed full of healthy omega-3 and protein. These meaty fish seem like the ideal treat for a hungry pup, and canned sardines can make a cheap way of supplementing your pooch’s diet.

can dogs eat sardines?

So let’s quickly double-check whether dogs can eat sardines and if these little fishies are as good for your furry friend as they are for us.

CAN DOGS EAT SARDINES?

Yes, dogs can eat sardines and these small fish pack some big nutritional benefits for your furry friend. Feel free to let your pooch pinch a pilchard sometime, or you could add a sardine to your dog’s dinner every few days to boost the omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

There are some dogs that can’t snuffle a sardine safely though. If your pooch has suffered from pancreatitis or has underlying health conditions such as liver disease, then this oily, fatty fish isn’t always safe for them to eat. If your dog is overweight then it’s a good idea to skip sardines, particularly those canned in oil, as the fat content could lead to further weight gain.

The best thing to do is to speak to your vet and ask if sardines are safe for your dog, and they’ll be happy to advise you on whether these small fish are safe for your furry friend and how many they can eat.

ARE DOGS ALLOWED RAW SARDINES?

No, your dog shouldn’t eat raw sardines or any kind of raw fish. They can eat and digest the fish, but it is tougher on their gut to break down and absorb the nutrients compared to cooked fish.

The main problem with raw sardines is the risk of pathogens and parasites which can be present and may make you or your dog sick. Raw sardines also contain an enzyme called thiaminase which breaks down vitamin B1 in your dog’s body and can cause deficiency.

CAN DOGS EAT CANNED SARDINES?

Canned sardines are super affordable and an accessible form of oily fish. Because they’re so easy to get a hold of, it makes sense to wonder whether dogs can eat canned sardines to reap all those benefits from the oily fish but without breaking the bank.

Dogs can eat canned sardines, but they aren’t as good as fresh fish. This is because canned sardines will always contain some additional ingredients like salt, oil, or preservatives that aren’t good for your dog to eat.

Some canned sardines, like those tinned in water, are perfectly safe for dogs to eat and can make a healthy, tasty snack for your pooch. However, not all tinned sardines are so healthy for your dog.

CAN DOGS EAT SARDINES IN SUNFLOWER OIL?

Dogs can eat sardines in sunflower oil because they don’t contain any toxic ingredients, but they aren’t the healthiest option for your furry friend.

This is because the oil increases the amount of fat in the fish. Sardines in sunflower oil usually have about double the amount of fat compared to other kinds of canned pilchards.

Eating too much fat puts your pup at risk of unhealthy weight gain and obesity, but snacking on fatty foods can also put them at risk of pancreatitis. Some brands of sardines in sunflower oil are salty too, and it’s always best to limit the amount of salt your dog eats to keep them healthy.

You can drain the oil away and leave the sardines on some kitchen roll to soak up some of the oil, but these sardines will still have way more fat than fresh fish or sardines tinned in water.

However, sardines in sunflower oil are safe for Fido to scoff, you just need to keep servings smaller to account for the extra fat and calories.

CAN DOGS EAT SARDINES IN BRINE?

Ideally, your dog won’t eat sardines in brine. These tinned fish usually don’t contain anything toxic so they are “safe” for your pup to eat. The problem is that this kind of canned sardine has a high salt content which isn’t good for your dog.

A can of sardines in brine has about 0.8g of salt, which is several times more than the recommended salt intake for a medium dog. That being said, some brands of sardines in brine have less salt and fat than sardines in sunflower oil!

Eating too much salt can dehydrate your pooch, so you must make sure they have fresh drinking water available. Salt in large quantities is considered toxic to dogs, so it’s always best to limit how much they can eat to prevent any illness.

If you want to feed your pooch canned sardines, opt for sardines tinned in water. They sometimes have sea salt added, but not nearly as much as brined fish. And if you can find a low salt variety, so much the better!

CAN DOGS EAT SARDINES IN TOMATO SAUCE?

Dogs shouldn’t eat sardines in tomato sauce. Typically, sardines in tomato sauce don’t contain any toxic ingredients so they’re “safe” for dogs, but they are more likely to contain something “bad” for dogs compared to plain fish.

Believe it or not, a can of sardines in tomato sauce will often have as much or even more salt than sardines in brine. That tommy sauce packs a lot of salt and sugar which aren’t healthy for your pooch.

Secondly, the sauce is often made using a lot of sunflower oil, or another kind of vegetable oil. As mentioned before, sardines canned in oil take on a lot of fat which isn’t ideal for your pup.

Some brands of sardines in tomato sauce do have other ingredients which can make your pooch unwell, like paprika or hot peppers. These are known to irritate a dog’s stomach and eating a can could cause gastroenteritis or other digestive problems.

You could rinse the sardines before feeding them to your furry friend, but some of the sugar, salt, and fat from the sauce would have soaked into the fish.

To put it simply, saucy sardines and all the extra ingredients are more likely to make your pup sick. So stick to plain varieties of tinned sardines if you can.

ARE SARDINES GOOD FOR DOGS?

Sardines are great for dogs! These fantastic fishies are packed full of vitamins and minerals, but the most brilliant benefits are from the fatty acids and protein.

Pilchards are packed with omega-3 and omega-6, which help to keep your pooch’s fur shiny, and their skin healthy. Oily fish like sardines make great brain food too, helping to maintain their cognitive health. There’s also a nifty compound called Coenzyme Q10 which works wonders in keeping both human and hound hearts healthy.

Finally, sardines are full of protein and we all know dogs need a lot of protein to keep healthy. Sardines also contain a number of essential amino acids which your dog needs to eat in order for their body to make its own proteins, which are used to create hormones, DNA, or new muscle, skin, or tendon tissues.

CAN SARDINES MAKE DOGS SICK?

Any food can make a dog sick if they eat too much, and sardines are no different. If your dog eats too many sardines, the high fat and salt content can cause gastrointestinal problems like vomiting and diarrhoea, and they might lead to more serious issues like pancreatitis or sodium poisoning.

Fresh fish has less fat and salt content compared to canned sardines, so your pooch is less likely to be ill and can eat more of them safely.

The bones in sardines can also cause problems because although they’re soft, they can still irritate or injure your dog’s throat and gut. It’s best to debone sardines before serving them to your pooch or you can buy boneless fish fillets for Fido.

Raw sardines are a no-go because they could carry bacteria and parasites that can make your dog sick, as well as the enzyme thiaminase which breaks down B vitamins. Thankfully, simply cooking sardines is enough to destroy the enzyme and any pesky parasites or pathogens as well.

Finally, there is a small chance your pooch could be allergic to sardines. If your dog seems unwell after eating sardines, stop feeding them these fish and talk to your vet.

On the whole though, sardines are perfectly safe for dogs to eat in moderation. Introduce them to your pooch slowly and make sure they don’t have any adverse reactions before offering them anymore.

HOW MANY SARDINES CAN A DOG EAT?

The best rule of thumb to follow when trying to figure out how many sardines a dog can eat is to use the 10% rule. That means your dog should eat no more than 10% of their recommended calorie intake in treats, titbits, supplements, or snacks like sardines.

Another good guide is if you’ve got a small dog like a Chihuahua that weighs less than 2.5kg, they shouldn’t eat more than 2 sardines a day. Dogs between 2.7kg-12kg can eat around half a can of sardines safely, or 4 fish. Dogs bigger than 12kg can eat up to 8 sardines, or roughly a can’s worth. Big dogs 23kg+ can eat up to 1¾ cans of sardines, or about 14 fish.

RECAP: CAN DOGS HAVE SARDINES?

Dogs can eat sardines as a nutritious snack as long as you make sure to feed these little fishies in moderation. Canned sardines are cheap and easy to get your hands on, but they are quite high in fat and salt so keeping portions small is key to keeping your friend happy and healthy.

However, instead of trying to guess how many sardines are right for your dog, why not try feeding a complete and balanced diet such as Pure, which contains the perfect amount of vitamins, natural omega 3 oils and protein in it already so you don't need to try and supplement it in your dog's diet with those slimy little sardines. Our omega 3 oils come from natural sources, such as algae and linseed, all added in with the aim of promoting healthy skin, healthy digestion, a healthy coat and healthy cognitive function.

Dr Andrew Miller BVSc MRCVS

Written by: Dr Andrew Miller MRCVS

Andy graduated from Bristol University in 2010 and sees nutrition as a foundation for our pet's wellbeing and takes a common-sense approach. We are what we eat, and it shouldn't be any different for our pets.